Welcome to the Reading Room

Here are some news stories and articles which might be of interest to you. I've posted the opening section, and if you want to read more, you can click on "Read the whole article" to go to the original item. You'll find a variety of things here -- current news, political analysis, opinion pieces, articles about religion -- things I've happened to read and want to share with you. It's your Reading Room, so take your time. Browse. You're certain to find something you'll want to read.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

The boy who paints like an old master

His pictures cost upwards of £900, there are 680 people on a waiting list to buy them, and his second exhibition sold out in 14 minutes. Patrick Barkham meets the gifted artist Kieron Williamson, aged seven.

by Patrick Barkham

Kieron Williamson kneels on the wooden bench in his small kitchen, takes a pastel from the box by his side and rubs it on to a piece of paper.

"Have you got a picture in your head of what you're going to do?" asks his mother, Michelle.

"Yep," Kieron nods. "A snow scene."

Because it is winter at the moment, I ask.

"Yep."

Do you know how you want it to come out?

"Yep."

And does it come out how you want it to?

"Sometimes it does."

Like many great artists, small boys are not often renowned for their loquaciousness. While Kieron Williamson is a very normal seven-year-old who uses his words sparingly, what slowly emerges on the small rectangle of paper in his kitchen is extraordinarily eloquent.

This month, Kieron's second exhibition in a gallery in his home town of Holt, Norfolk, sold out in 14 minutes. The sale of 16 new paintings swelled his bank account by £18,200. There are now 680 people on a waiting list for a Kieron original. Art lovers have driven from London to buy his work. Agents buzz around the town. People offer to buy his schoolbooks. The starting price for a simple pastel picture like the one Kieron is sketching? £900.

Kieron lives with his dad Keith, a former electrician, his mum, who is training to be a nutritionist, and Billie-Jo, his little sister, in a small flat overlooking a petrol station. When I arrive on a Saturday afternoon, Kieron and Keith are out. When Kieron returns in football socks and shorts, I assume he has been playing football. But no, he has been replenishing his stock of pastels in Holt, a chichi little place where even the chip shop has grainy portraits for sale on its walls...  Read the whole article.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

2009: The Anglican Year of Living Dangerously

by David Virtue

It was a year that Anglican leaders might well breathe a sigh of relief has passed.

It was a year of turmoil and upheaval that included two resolutions on sexuality passed at The Episcopal Church's 76th annual General Convention that promise to further isolate The Episcopal Church from the Anglican mainstream. It was the year the birth took place of a new Anglican province on North American soil; a lesbian was elected bishop in an ultra-liberal Episcopal diocese; litigation increased over property in the US and Canada; a pope offered a "safe haven" for traditionalist Anglicans across the world; and a Covenant was finalized that many believe holds little promise of keeping an increasingly feuding and fractured communion together.

Queen Elizabeth II made famous the phrase "annus horribilis" to describe her own personal travails in 1992. Dr. Rowan Williams might well echo those two words as he looks back on the year that has passed from the walls of Lambeth Palace. His personal cry might well be, "Nevertheless, let this cup pass from me...."

The Anglican Communion followed the bell curve of a worldwide economic recession with its own spiritual and ecclesiastical recession. The Episcopal Church's $141 million budget (down some $23 million and possibly more), described by Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori as "death", was reflected in church program and budget cuts that saw 37 of its 180 staff eliminated. If TEC were a publicly traded company, it would be a penny stock bearing in mind that its 109 dioceses failed to show any growth (with the notable exception of South Carolina) with diocese after diocese reporting lost income, closing parishes and aging congregants. Some experienced added legal costs fighting to retain properties.

With no discernible gospel to proclaim, there seems little likelihood that the lost ground will ever be made up. Couple that with the increasing flight of mega evangelical parishes from both liberal and orthodox dioceses, the church seems bent on isolating and destroying the very wing that can make it grow. Millions of dollars were racked up in legal fees as orthodox parishes from coast to coast fled their revisionist task masters, at the same time pushing their ownership claims from local courts to ever higher courts in the hopes they might be vindicated...  Read the whole article.

Monday, December 28, 2009

The Story of the Man and the Birds

Now the man to whom I'm going to introduce you was not a scrooge, he was a kind, decent, mostly good man. Generous to his family, upright in his dealings with other men. But he just didn't believe all that incarnation stuff which the churches proclaim at Christmas Time. It just didn't make sense and he was too honest to pretend otherwise. He just couldn't swallow the Jesus Story, about God coming to Earth as a man. "I'm truly sorry to distress you," he told his wife, "but I'm not going with you to church this Christmas Eve." He said he'd feel like a hypocrite. That he'd much rather just stay at home, but that he would wait up for them. And so he stayed and they went to the midnight service.

Shortly after the family drove away in the car, snow began to fall. He went to the window to watch the flurries getting heavier and heavier and then went back to his fireside chair and began to read his newspaper. Minutes later he was startled by a thudding sound. Then another, and then another. Sort of a thump or a thud. At first he thought someone must be throwing snowballs against his living room window. But when he went to the front door to investigate he found a flock of birds huddled miserably in the snow. They'd been caught in the storm and, in a desperate search for shelter, had tried to fly through his large landscape window.

Well, he couldn't let the poor creatures lie there and freeze, so he remembered the barn where his children stabled their pony. That would provide a warm shelter, if he could direct the birds to it. Quickly he put on a coat, galoshes, tramped through the deepening snow to the barn. He opened the doors wide and turned on a light, but the birds did not come in. He figured food would entice them in. So he hurried back to the house, fetched bread crumbs, sprinkled them on the snow, making a trail to the yellow-lighted wide open doorway of the stable. But to his dismay, the birds ignored the bread crumbs, and continued to flap around helplessly in the snow. He tried catching them. He tried shooing them into the barn by walking around them waving his arms. Instead, they scattered in every direction, except into the warm, lighted barn.

And then, he realized, that they were afraid of him. To them, he reasoned, I am a strange and terrifying creature. If only I could think of some way to let them know that they can trust me. That I am not trying to hurt them, but to help them. But how? Because any move he made tended to frighten them, confuse them. They just would not follow. They would not be led or shooed because they feared him. "If only I could be a bird," he thought to himself, "and mingle with them and speak their language. Then I could tell them not to be afraid. Then I could show them the way to safety ... to the safe warm barn. But I would have to be one of them so they could see, and hear and understand."

At that moment the church bells began to ring. The sound reached his ears above the sounds of the wind. And he stood there listening to the bells - Adeste Fidelis - listening to the bells pealing the glad tidings of Christmas. And he sank to his knees in the snow. Read the original here.

Sen. Lautenberg Declines To Say Where Congress Gets Constitutional Authority To Mandate Health Insurance

by Edwin Mora

(CNSNews.com) - Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.) declined to say where Congress gets the constitutional authority to require every American to have health insurance, as both the Senate and House health care bills mandate.

At the U.S. Capitol on Tuesday, Dec. 22, CNSNews.com asked Senator Lautenberg, “Specifically where in the Constitution does Congress get the authority to mandate that individuals have health insurance?”

Lautenberg said, “I am not going to answer that,” and then walked away.

The individual health insurance mandate in the Senate health reform bill would force all Americans to carry some form of government-approved health insurance or pay an excise tax penalty ranging between $500 and $1,500 per year.

The Senate health care bill, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, is 2,078 pages long and is estimated to cost -- over 10 years, with benefits starting in 2014 – at least $1.8 trillion.

The legislation passed on a party-line vote, 60 – 39, on Dec. 24, Christmas Eve. (Sen. Jim Bunning [R-Ky.] skipped the vote, while the two Independents – Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Sen. Joe Lieberman of Connecticut – joined with the 58 Democrats to pass the bill.)

Back in 1994, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) examined the individual health insurance mandate, which was then being proposed by President Bill Clinton’s health care reform effort, and described the idea as an “unprecedented form of federal action.”

“The government has never required people to buy any good or service as a condition of lawful residence in the United States,” the CBO analysis said. “An individual mandate would have two features that, in combination, would make it unique. First, it would impose a duty on individuals as members of society. Second, it would require people to purchase a specific service that would be heavily regulated by the federal government.”  Read the whole article.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Urbi et Orbi Message of His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Rome and throughout the world, and all men and women, whom the Lord loves!

“Lux fulgebit hodie super nos,
quia natus est nobis Dominus.
A light will shine on us this day,
the Lord is born for us
(Roman Missal, Christmas, Entrance Antiphon for the Mass at Dawn)

The liturgy of the Mass at Dawn reminded us that the night is now past, the day has begun; the light radiating from the cave of Bethlehem shines upon us.

The Bible and the Liturgy do not, however, speak to us about a natural light, but a different, special light, which is somehow directed to and focused upon “us”, the same “us” for whom the Child of Bethlehem “is born”. This “us” is the Church, the great universal family of those who believe in Christ, who have awaited in hope the new birth of the Saviour, and who today celebrate in mystery the perennial significance of this event.

At first, beside the manger in Bethlehem, that “us” was almost imperceptible to human eyes. As the Gospel of Saint Luke recounts, it included, in addition to Mary and Joseph, a few lowly shepherds who came to the cave after hearing the message of the Angels. The light of that first Christmas was like a fire kindled in the night. All about there was darkness, while in the cave there shone the true light “that enlightens every man” (Jn 1:9). And yet all this took place in simplicity and hiddenness, in the way that God works in all of salvation history. God loves to light little lights, so as then to illuminate vast spaces. Truth, and Love, which are its content, are kindled wherever the light is welcomed; they then radiate in concentric circles, as if by contact, in the hearts and minds of all those who, by opening themselves freely to its splendour, themselves become sources of light. Such is the history of the Church: she began her journey in the lowly cave of Bethlehem, and down the centuries she has become a People and a source of light for humanity. Today too, in those who encounter that Child, God still kindles fires in the night of the world, calling men and women everywhere to acknowledge in Jesus the “sign” of his saving and liberating presence and to extend the “us” of those who believe in Christ to the whole of mankind.

Wherever there is an “us” which welcomes God’s love, there the light of Christ shines forth, even in the most difficult situations. The Church, like the Virgin Mary, offers the world Jesus, the Son, whom she herself has received as a gift, the One who came to set mankind free from the slavery of sin. Like Mary, the Church does not fear, for that Child is her strength. But she does not keep him for herself: she offers him to all those who seek him with a sincere heart, to the earth’s lowly and afflicted, to the victims of violence, and to all who yearn for peace. Today too, on behalf of a human family profoundly affected by a grave financial crisis, yet even more by a moral crisis, and by the painful wounds of wars and conflicts, the Church, in faithful solidarity with mankind, repeats with the shepherds: “Let us go to Bethlehem” (Lk 2:15), for there we shall find our hope.

The “us” of the Church is alive in the place where Jesus was born, in the Holy Land, inviting its people to abandon every logic of violence and vengeance, and to engage with renewed vigour and generosity in the process which leads to peaceful coexistence. The “us” of the Church is present in the other countries of the Middle East. How can we forget the troubled situation in Iraq and the “little flock” of Christians which lives in the region? At times it is subject to violence and injustice, but it remains determined to make its own contribution to the building of a society opposed to the logic of conflict and the rejection of one’s neighbour. The “us” of the Church is active in Sri Lanka, in the Korean peninsula and in the Philippines, as well as in the other countries of Asia, as a leaven of reconciliation and peace. On the continent of Africa she does not cease to lift her voice to God, imploring an end to every injustice in the Democratic Republic of Congo; she invites the citizens of Guinea and Niger to respect for the rights of every person and to dialogue; she begs those of Madagascar to overcome their internal divisions and to be mutually accepting; and she reminds all men and women that they are called to hope, despite the tragedies, trials and difficulties which still afflict them. In Europe and North America, the “us” of the Church urges people to leave behind the selfish and technicist mentality, to advance the common good and to show respect for the persons who are most defenceless, starting with the unborn. In Honduras she is assisting in process of rebuilding institutions; throughout Latin America, the “us” of the Church is a source of identity, a fullness of truth and of charity which no ideology can replace, a summons to respect for the inalienable rights of each person and his or her integral development, a proclamation of justice and fraternity, a source of unity.

In fidelity to the mandate of her Founder, the Church shows solidarity with the victims of natural disasters and poverty, even within opulent societies. In the face of the exodus of all those who migrate from their homelands and are driven away by hunger, intolerance or environmental degradation, the Church is a presence calling others to an attitude of acceptance and welcome. In a word, the Church everywhere proclaims the Gospel of Christ, despite persecutions, discriminations, attacks and at times hostile indifference. These, in fact, enable her to share the lot of her Master and Lord.

Dear Brothers and Sisters, how great a gift it is to be part of a communion which is open to everyone! It is the communion of the Most Holy Trinity, from whose heart Emmanuel, Jesus, “God with us”, came into the world. Like the shepherds of Bethlehem, let us contemplate, filled with wonder and gratitude, this mystery of love and light! Happy Christmas to all!

Ronald Reagan: Christmas Address to the Nation

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Thou SHALT shoplift: Priest tells congregation it's better than robbery or prostitution

by Chris Brooke

Poor people who are desperate for cash have been advised to go forth and shoplift from major stores - by an Anglican priest.

The Rev Tim Jones said in his Sunday sermon that stealing from successful shops was preferable to burglary, robbery or prostitution.

He told parishioners it would not break the eighth commandment 'thou shalt not steal' because it 'is permissible for those who are in desperate situations to take food that they might not starve'.

But his advice was roundly condemned by police and the local Tory MP. Father Jones, 42, was discussing Mary and the birth of Jesus when he went on to the subject of how poor and vulnerable people cope in the run-up to Christmas.

'My advice, as a Christian priest, is to shoplift,' he told his stunned congregation at St Lawrence and St Hilda in York.

'I do not offer such advice because I think that stealing is a good thing, or because I think it is harmless, for it is neither.

'I would ask that they do not steal from small family businesses, but from large national businesses, knowing that the costs are ultimately passed on to the rest of us in the form of higher prices.

'I would ask them not to take any more than they need. I offer the advice with a heavy heart. Let my words not be misrepresented as a simplistic call for people to shoplift.

'The observation that shoplifting is the best option that some people are left with is a grim indictment of who we are.

'Rather, this is a call for our society no longer to treat its most vulnerable people with indifference and contempt.

'When people are released from prison, or find themselves suddenly without work or family support, then to leave them for weeks with inadequate or clumsy social support is monumental, catastrophic folly.

'We create a situation which leaves some people little option but crime.'

The father of two, whose parish has a wide mix of social conditions, said his advice to people in dire circumstances is that 'they should not hurt anybody and cope as best they can'.

He added: 'The strong temptation is to burgle or rob people - family, friends, neighbours, strangers...  Read the whole article.

Christmas Message 2009

by Patriarch Fouad

First of all, I want to welcome you, all the journalists gathered here today, and thank you for the good but difficult work you perform. Through this work you have the opportunity to seek and serve the truth. Many journalists have paid and continue to pay a real cost to their lives due to their dedication to the truth. Information is not neutral. It has a real ethical dimension. Through informing the readers about what happens in the world, you help them to have an objective and ethical evaluation of the events themselves. Thank you and welcome.

Christmas approaches. Therefore I wish peace and Grace to all the inhabitants of this Holy Land: Palestinians and Israelis, Christians, Muslims, Jews and Druses. I extend these greetings to our faithful in Jordan and Cyprus who are also part of this diocese. The Birth of Christ offers several values to meditate upon: peace, hope, love, sharing, hospitality, compassion and human dignity...  Read the whole article.

Monday, December 21, 2009

First Jesus-Era House Found in Nazareth, Israel

NAZARETH, Israel — Days before Christmas, archaeologists on Monday unveiled what they said were the remains of the first dwelling in Nazareth that can be dated back to the time of Jesus — a find that could shed new light on what the hamlet was like during the period the New Testament says Jesus lived there as a boy.

The dwelling and older discoveries of nearby tombs in burial caves suggest that Nazareth was an out-of-the-way hamlet of around 50 houses on a patch of about four acres. It was evidently populated by Jews of modest means who kept camouflaged grottos to hide from Roman invaders, said archaeologist Yardena Alexandre, excavations director at the Israel Antiquities Authority,

Based on clay and chalk shards found at the site, the dwelling appeared to house a "simple Jewish family," Alexandre added, as workers at the site carefully chipped away at mud with small pickaxes to reveal stone walls...  Read the whole article.

Anglicanorum Coetibus: A Glorious New Era of Christian Unity

by Mary Ann Mueller

SAN ANTONIO, TEXAS----If the 1974 ordination of women caused the first fissure in The Episcopal Church and the subsequent consecration of V. Gene Robinson to the bishopric rent the very fabric of Anglicanism worldwide, then more than four hundred years before, the Reformation, including the English Reformation, helped to fracture the entire Body of Christ and herald in Protestantism: a brokenness to the entire Body of Christ which still hasn't been healed.

Christ, Himself, prayed in His Priestly prayer: "The glory that You have given Me I have given to them, that they may be one even as We are One, I in them and You in Me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that You sent Me and loved them even as You loved Me." (St. John 17: 22-23 -- ESV). That prayer was uttered in the Garden following Christ's institution of the Eucharist and before He was arrested and led to the Cross at Golgotha.

As we are about to enter into the second decade of the 21st Century, so far Christ's prayer for Christian unity has not been fulfilled. For nearly a millennium, since the Great Schism of 1054, which split Apostolic Christendom, the Church -- the Body of Christ -- has become more and more dismembered as Biblical truth and apostolic authority are jettisoned for the pabulum of social justice and spiritual rebellion.

Now there is a sense of urgency for that fulfillment for Christ's priestly prayer. For years, Anglo-Catholic members of The Episcopal Church (TEC) and the wider Continuing Anglican Movement have been throwing pebbles at the Pope's window in the Vatican seeking reunification with the See of Rome and to be brought into the fullness of their Catholicity, hopefully keeping some of their unique Anglican liturgy, patrimony and ethos.

The Vatican heard the fervent plea and the window cracked in 1980 when Pope John Paul II allowed for the Pastoral Provision which gave American Anglicans the opportunity to "Swim the Tiber" and still retain some of their cherished Anglican heritage... Read the whole article.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Popes Pius XII, John Paul II declared 'venerable'

In a series of decrees issued on December 19, the Vatican has approved miracles allowing for the canonization of five people and the beatification of five others. The Vatican also recognized the 1984 murder of Father Jerzy Popieluszko by Communist intelligence officers as a martyrdom, preparing the way for his beatification.

The decrees, approved by Pope Benedict XVI during a private audience with Cardinal Angelo Amato, prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, also proclaimed that ten other candidates for sainthood had lived lives of heroic virtue. Those decrees make the candidates eligible for beatification if a miracle is attributed to their intercession.

The two decrees commanding the greatest public attention were those recognizing the heroic virtue of Pope Pius XII, who reigned from 1939 to 1958, and Pope John Paul II, who reigned from 1978 to 2005... Read the whole article.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Legion of Christ discloses Fr. Maciel's plagiarism to its members

CNA STAFF, Dec 18, 2009 / 11:42 am (CNA).- In an effort to distance itself from the wrongdoings of its founder, the Legion of Christ has recently circulated an internal memo detailing how a long venerated work of spirituality attributed to Fr. Marcial Maciel was actually a slight re-writing of a book from a little-known Spanish author.

“El Salterio de mis días” (The Psalter of my Days), according to the Legionary tradition, was regarded as written by Fr. Maciel during the period of the "great blessing," (1956-59), when the Mexican founder was submitted to a canonical process by the Vatican that was finally called off.

The memo now reveals that the text, very popular among the Legion in its original in Spanish and partially translated into English for internal use, was “based” on the little known work of a Spanish Catholic politician, Luis Lucía.

In a book titled “El Salterio de mis horas” (The Psalter of my Hours), Lucía, a Christian Democrat, reflected on his experience of being persecuted both by the Communist government during Spain's civil war (1936-1939), and the Nationalist government of Francisco Franco, who condemned him to death, but later changed the sentence to life in prison.

Lucía, the author of several political and spiritual books, probably wrote “The Psalter of my Hours” in the 30's. He was released from prison in 1941, and died in Valencia, Spain in 1943.

Despite being long forgotten, a small edition of “The Psalter of my Hours” was published in Valencia in 1956. It seems this was the edition Fr. Maciel read in Spain.

Although the memo does not describe Fr. Maciel's copying as plagiarism, a Spanish member of the Legion familiar with the text told CNA that Fr. Maciel's version reproduces "80% of the original book in content and style."  This is the whole article.  Read the original here.

The Catholic case against health-care reform

by Phil Lawler


President Obama’s crusade to enact health-care reform legislation is nearing its climactic battle in the US Senate. How should Catholic Americans look upon this legislative struggle?

The US bishops have consistently voiced their support for health-care reform, while insisting that the legislation must include some language ensuring against public support for abortion. In the House of Representatives their lobbying had its desired effect, and the “Stupak Amendment” gave the bishops a bill they could support. In the Senate a pro-life amendment was rejected. Still the US bishops’ conference has clung to the bare hope that some acceptable language might be inserted, somewhere during the remaining steps of the legislative process.

As a matter of practical politics, I think the bishops’ hopes are unrealistic. The Senate vote against the pro-life language was decisive. If the Senate passes a bill without a pro-life amendment, a joint committee will iron out the differences between that legislation and the version passed by the House. That reconciliation process will be dominated by the Democratic majority leadership, which is wholeheartedly committed to abortion coverage. Thus if a health-care reform bill is passed in this Congressional session, it will almost certainly include subsidies for abortion.

But just for the sake of the argument, let’s assume that the final legislation includes a solid pro-life amendment. Should Catholics then give their legislation their wholehearted support?

Absolutely not, for four reasons.

First, even if it doesn’t subsidize abortion this year, the federal health-care program will subsidize abortion in the future. All it takes is one act of Congress to amend the bill, one federal judge to rule that a ban on abortion funding is discriminatory, or one bureaucrat to rule that abortion is a “preventive” medical procedure, and the subsidies will snap quickly into place. Pro-life forces have battled valiantly to stave off the public funding of abortion this year, but as long as the federal government controls the health-care market, the battle will be fought repeatedly—month after month, year after year, legal case after case—until the left reaches its goal, and locks in the funding.

Second, abortion isn’t the only moral issue. The main focus of public attention has been the potential subsidies for abortion. But the legislation would also ensure federal subsidies for contraception and sterilization. American citizens could soon find themselves paying for in vitro fertilization treatments and sex-reassignment surgeries, if doctors and their federal overseers certified that these procedures were necessary.

He who pays the piper calls the tune, and if the federal government pays for health-care treatment, the White House ultimately will set the standards to determine which procedures warrant support. We already know where President Obama stands on embryonic stem-cell research, and we can easily predict how he will respond to the use of medicines obtained from human embryos in the treatment of diseases. Such medicines (if any ever appear) will receive federal subsidies. On the other hand, efforts to provide rudimentary medical care (as opposed to extraordinary treatment) for comatose patients will be stifled. So at both beginning and end of human life, the financial pressures will be adverse to the cause of human dignity... Read the whole article. 

Thursday, December 17, 2009

God Is Relevant; The Art of Desecration

by Edward Pentin

ROME, DEC. 17, 2009 (Zenit.org).- It's hard to imagine a serious conference on the importance of God in the world taking place in many of the West's capital cities today. If they do take place at all, they usually degenerate into televised spectacles and malicious attacks on the Church.

Yet a three-day conference in Rome last week -- titled "God Today: With Him or Without Him, That Changes Everything" -- successfully brought together leading theologians, philosophers, artists, politicians and Church to discuss, rationally and calmly, the importance and relevance of God to people's daily lives. An estimated 2,500 people -- many of them young people -- filled the auditorium near the Vatican, despite some secularists predicting they would never turn up.

Benedict XVI sent a message underlining the significance of the meeting, which was originally the idea of Cardinal Camillo Ruini and hosted by the Italian bishops conference. "The issue of God," he wrote, "is central in our time, which often tends to reduce man to a single dimension -- the 'horizontal' dimension -- in the belief that his openness to the Transcendent is irrelevant to his life."

Man's relationship with God, he stressed, "is essential for the journey of humankind" and the Church and all Christians have the task of making God present in the world. The Pope then highlighted what made this conference different from the usual sceptical debates about religion.

Its starting point was to show the various paths that lead to affirming the truth about the existence of God fully revealed through Jesus Christ. It also aimed at throwing light on the essential importance that God has for mankind, for each person's life and his salvation.

"In a cultural and spiritual situation such as the present, where there is a growing tendency to relegate God to the private sphere, to consider him as irrelevant and superfluous, or even to reject him explicitly, it is my heartfelt hope that this event may contribute, at the least, to dispersing the shadow that makes modern man hesitant and timorous before the idea of openness to God," the Pope wrote... Read the whole article.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Remembrance, and Maybe Sainthood, for Bishop Fulton J. Sheen

by Paul Vitello

To a Catholic boy like Tim Dolan, growing up in the heartland when Protestant neighbors still made casual jokes about the “papists” next door, Bishop Fulton J. Sheen rode into town in the 1950s on the new main street of the United States, the television set, like a true-blue American hero.

“He showed the broad American public that the truths of our faith were consonant with the highest values of the society: patriotism, God, family and the struggle against Communism,” said that boy, now known as Archbishop Timothy M. Dolan of New York.

Archbishop Dolan led a memorial Mass on Wednesday evening at St. Patrick’s Cathedral to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the death of Bishop Sheen. An auxiliary bishop of the New York Archdiocese from 1951 to 1965, the man whom the Rev. Billy Graham called “the greatest communicator of the 20th century” is buried in a crypt under the cathedral altar, which was open for public viewing before the Mass.

In a way, the event — which attracted Roman Catholic dignitaries, parishioners from across the country and two great-great nieces of the bishop — served unofficially as promotion for a little-noticed campaign to make Bishop Sheen, the first and greatest Catholic televangelist, a saint of the church.

After 20 years in radio, Bishop Sheen scored a hit with his first weekly TV show, “Life is Worth Living,” on the DuMont network. The program drew tens of millions of viewers on Tuesday nights from 1951 to 1957, though it appeared opposite giants of early television like Lucille Ball and Milton Berle (who once quipped that the bishop was pretty good for a guy who “uses old material”)...  Read the whole article.

The Most Boring Man in the World?

Obama’s speeches all run together into the same mind-numbing oration.

by Rich Lowry

Barack Obama’s vibe used to be a cross between JFK and Beatlemania. Now it’s fading into “Oh, him again?”

There’s nothing wrong with a boring politician. But Obama isn’t becoming boring in a stolid, dependable Angela Merkel kind of way. He’s not boring like a mannerly George H. W. Bush or a thoughtful Bill Bradley. He’s boring like yesterday’s celebrity.

He’s the teen heartthrob who’s grown a little too old. He’s the star from The Real World Denver — three years ago. The cruel vicissitudes of the celebrity culture apply to everyone. If Paris Hilton can be overtaken by the even-more-pointlessly famous Kim Kardashian, no one is safe.

Much of what was new and different about Obama didn’t survive its first contact with reality. His core supporters on the left suffer from what Woodrow Wilson called, in a different context, the “tragedy of disappointment.” They expected a glorious new dispensation. Yet Gitmo remains open, more troops are going to Afghanistan, and the tides haven’t receded.

Swing voters had more modest hopes — responsible, nonideological governance. Nope.

The Obama team believes there is only one person who can redeem his political project — and that’s Barack Obama. He must be deployed early, often, unrelentingly. He’ll talk to your children in the classroom, show up during your Thanksgiving Day NFL game and explain — and explain some more — his policies.

The old preacher’s adage is, “Tell them what you’re going to tell them. Tell them. Tell them what you told them.” Obama might add “repeat as necessary,” including on late-night TV shows...  Read the whole article. 

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Pope to preach in Westminster Hall

Pope Benedict XVI will preach in Westminster Hall, where Catholic martyrs including Sir Thomas More were condemned to die, when he visits England next September, it has emerged.

He will make an address to MPs and peers from the spot where Sir Thomas was sentenced in 1535 for his opposing the adultery of King Henry VIII.

Details of the four-day state visit are being discussed in Rome between a delegation of Whitehall officials and their Vatican counterparts.

A Vatican delegation has also visited London in an attempt to finalise the plans.

It is understood, however, that the visit will begin on September 16 and that it will end after the Pope has personally presided over the beatification of Cardinal John Henry Newman, possibly in Wembly stadium, on Sunday September 19.

The address in Westminster Hall will be one of two public speeches that the Pope will deliver during the trip. The other will be to academics at Oxford University.

Former Tory Minister Ann Widdecombe, a convert to Catholicism who will be standing down at the next General Election, said it was “marvellous” that the Pope will be able to address parliamentarian from such an historic venue.

She said: “He should remind Parliamentarians of their duty to guarantee freedom and democracy and that includes Christians.”

Westminster Hall was built in the 11th century and is the oldest part of the Palace of Westminster.

It is sacred to many Catholics because it was where many martyrs and saints were tried for High Treason during the Protestant Reformation... Read the whole article.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Rowan Williams cannot now prevent an Anglican schism

by Paul Vallely

Rowan Williams bought himself time for a while in his attempt to hold the Anglican Communion together in its row over gay bishops. But yesterday it looked like that time is running out.

He had appealed to the liberal church in the United States to impose a moratorium on electing any more gay bishops after the divisive election of Bishop Gene Robinson in 2003. But the ceasefire between liberals and evangelicals has effectively been ended by the election of a bishop who has committed a double sin in the eyes of conservatives: Canon Mary Glasspool is a woman priest and has openly been a lesbian for 21 years.

Dr Williams is clinging to one final hope. Her selection has still to be ratified by the national church before she is ordained next May. In theory her appointment could be rejected. But it is a forlorn expectation. The mood in the US church is that it is time to reject conservative intolerance and affirm that homosexuals are as loved by God as heterosexuals. The conservative group Reform yesterday said that a schism is now "absolutely inevitable". What has irritated liberals is the speed with which Dr Williams has issued his statement requesting "a period of gracious restraint" which is church-speak for urging the ceasefire to continue.

It comes in contrast to Lambeth Palace's unwillingness to make public comment about the anti-gay laws being proposed in Uganda where homosexuals are already liable to be jailed for life. A new bill will impose the death penalty on HIV positive gay men for "aggravated homosexuality". The law is being backed by at least one Ugandan bishop who has denounced homosexuality as a sign of modern Western decadence. But though Dr Williams' office has let it be known that he is appalled by the proposed law, he feels that publicly condemning it will make it more rather than less likely to come into force.

So it has come to this, for a man who made his reputation as one of Anglicanism's leading liberal catholic theologians: he swiftly condemns liberal Americans for being too tolerant, and yet feels forced to remain silent over a rank and brutal inhumanity.

Critics from both sides have unkindly quipped that Dr Williams has boldly nailed his colours to the fence. He may find that preferring unity to truth will not be possible much longer.  This is the whole article.  Read the original article here.

The Anglo-Catholic

A Brief Introduction and Rationale

by Christian Campbell

I am the Senior Warden of the Cathedral of the Incarnation (Orlando, FL) and a member of the Standing Committee of the Anglican Church in America’s Diocese of the Eastern United States. The ACA is the American province of the Traditional Anglican Communion (TAC).

I enter the world of blogging only reluctantly. Though I have followed the Anglo-Catholic and traditionalist Roman Catholic blogosphere closely for a number of years, my participation has always been limited to that of a spectator. A lay leader in my Anglican parish and diocese, it has been helpful to keep abreast both of developments in sister jurisdictions of the so-called “Continuing Church” and ecumenical developments with other Catholic groups — but I have always been wary of entering the fray. The pitched battles waged in the comment boxes of weblogs rarely prove productive. The unhappy divisions in the Anglican Continuum have made for a digital minefield that has hardly seemed worth treading, and, as an Anglican, I have generally felt it presumptuous to publicly comment on Roman Catholic sites. Moreover, my leadership role in the Church requires a certain discretion and, until now, there has never been a reason for me to complicate matters by mounting an online soapbox.

In October of 2007, the House of Bishops of the Traditional Anglican Communion petitioned the Holy See for a provision which would allow the TAC — corporately — to enter full communion with the Roman Catholic Church. Similar appeals were made by other Anglican groups, most notably Forward in Faith UK.

On November 9, 2009, the Holy Father answered the prayers of generations of Anglican Catholics with the publication of the Apostolic Constitution Anglicanorum Coetibus which provides for canonical structures allowing Anglican groups to enter full communion with the Catholic Church while preserving elements of the distinctive Anglican spiritual and liturgical patrimony...  Read the whole article.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Pope, Russia agree to upgrade diplomatic ties

by Daniela Petroff

VATICAN CITY — Pope Benedict XVI and visiting Russian President Dmitry Medvedev agreed Thursday to upgrade Vatican-Kremlin relations to full diplomatic ties, the Vatican said.

The step forward on the diplomatic front comes at the same time as a warming in previously tense relations between the Russian Orthodox Church and the Vatican.

A Vatican statement said Benedict and Medvedev agreed that Russia will upgrade its representation at the Vatican from a special mission to embassy level and that the Vatican will reciprocate in Moscow.

The two men also discussed challenges to "security and peace" in the world and "themes of mutual interest such as the value of the family and the contribution of believers to the life of Russia," the Vatican said.

Medvedev, on a one-day visit to Rome, met with the German pope for 30 minutes, speaking through interpreters. He had earlier met with Premier Silvio Berlusconi.

After decades of hostility between the Vatican and the Kremlin during the Cold War, the major breakthrough came when former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev met with Pope John Paul II in December 1989.

But the lifting of restrictions on religion led to new tensions with the Orthodox church, which accused the Vatican of poaching for souls in traditional Orthodox territory — a charge the Vatican denied.

The standoff prevented John Paul II of fulfilling his wish of making a pilgrimage to Russia.

Vatican officials, however, say that despite improved atmosphere such a trip is not on Benedict's agenda now. The Vatican statement after Thursday's meeting did not mention it.

Benedict had met with Medvedev's predecessor, Vladimir Putin, two years ago. As a gift, Medvedev presented Benedict with 22 volumes of an encyclopedia on the Russian Orthodox Church to complete a set brought by Putin.  This is the whole article.  Read the original here.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

The Divorce Myth

by Dr. Jeff Mirus

Children are happier if their parents are happier; they are better off growing up in an environment free from bickering; they are resilient enough that family upheavals do not negatively affect them over the long-term. Few would argue with these statements, but there is at least one scenario in which all of them are resoundingly false: That scenario is divorce. It turns out that, apart from violence and abuse, children are very much worse off if their parents become happier by divorcing, or if they avoid bickering by divorcing, or if the upheaval in question is the destruction of the family unit itself by divorce.

An article in this month’s Homiletic & Pastoral Review by Barbara Meng (not yet available online) summarizes the data. Meng herself has an impressive résumé. She holds an MTS degree from the John Paul II Institute for Studies on Marriage and Family in Washington, DC; she is the editor of the Catholic Family Quarterly and the business manager of Catholic Faith Alive; she has seven children and eighteen grandchildren; and, by the way, she’s been married for 50 years.

In considering marriage and divorce, I’m always reminded of my wife’s grandmother, who had a reputation as a bit of a shrew, and who was heard to make the following comment on her own marriage when she was considerably older than Barbara Meng, had been married longer, and had become far less mentally alert: “Willie and I have been married for sixty years,” she said, “and never a bad day!”

Yes. Well. But this is not as much of a digression as you may think, for by the very laughter with which this statement must be greeted by any married couple, the opposite is proved, and a key point is made: There are many “bad days” in every marriage. It isn’t only those who are deliriously happy who stay the course. Yet staying the course is supremely important to children, and even to grandchildren...  Read the whole article.

AtonementOnline

About Me

My photo
Fr. Phillips is the founding pastor of Our Lady of the Atonement Catholic Church, the first Anglican Use parish, established on August 15, 1983. Not that there is any confusion, but he is on the left, shown in his younger, less gray-headed days.